The flatbed market is typically cyclical and seasonal, impacted by the needs of multiple industries, including oilfield, road construction, manufacturing and other project cargoes. Flatbed carriers also face most of the same problems as other carriers, such as the driver shortage and the ELD mandate. Here are some things you can do to help secure flatbed capacity, whether or not we're currently in a capacity crunch:
Book Ahead of Time
Communicate with your 3PL, broker or carriers as far in advance as possible. Open communication and flexibility are important to securing the capacity you need when you need it most. For flatbed loads, you may need to communicate several days in advance to provide adequate lead time and have the flexibility to schedule around the driver's availability.
Understand Your Freight
Know the particulars when you call to book a load. You’ll have to answer questions like what commodities you are shipping, the dimensions and weight, whether tarps are required, etc. Flatbed freight needs to be secured so the carrier will need to know what it is you're shipping and its size so they can ensure they have the correct accessories (tarps, chains, corner protectors, etc.) and permits in case the load is over dimension or overweight. Having this information ready will make booking much easier and will show the carrier you are prepared.
Be Ready to Load and Unload
Waiting time or detention is one of the biggest issues for carriers. Be ready to load and unload at the scheduled time by having the necessary personnel, loading equipment and dunnage on hand. Provide adequate parking and make sure the loading dock is clear and ready for work. Carriers will want to work with shippers who are courteous of their time.
Develop a Network of Carriers
By giving adequate lead time on loads, being flexible, understanding your freight and equipment needs and communicating clearly, you can become a preferred shipper that flatbed carriers want to work with. Building those relationships will help you establish a network of carriers that you can turn to when you need to book a flatbed load.
Get Help from a Freight Professional
The average company may have a relationship with several carriers, but a third-party logistics (3PL) provider has connections to thousands of carriers and can help secure flatbed capacity even when it may seem hard to find. By working with a 3PL, you also get help with oversized and specialty loads as well as securing highway permits, route surveys and escorts. Many 3PLs also have contracted carriers so you won’t be paying the highest spot market rates during a capacity crunch.
These tips are good practice for any shipper looking to secure loads and they can help get you through and beyond any capacity crunch.